Searching for the Anti-Romney
John Dickerson and David Weigel take your questions about the 2012 election and the GOP's first New Hampshire debate.
Posted Tuesday, June 14, 2011, at 3:31 PM
Jason Delaney: I feel like I would never believe an election season could be so dull with an electorate that was so polarized. The candidates refusing to attack each other just means everything stays the same. Are the dynamics really so entrenched that it's as foregone as it seems? Is this the preseason football it feels like?
John Dickerson: Jason Delaney, don't despair. The attacks are coming. Also, I think this election will actually have a big philosophical debate about the size and scope of government for anyone who wants to participate in it. That's not to say that we won't screw it up and cover shiny objects and tiny tin-pot railers who claim to speak for constituencies they don't really represent.
Scott Wike: The problem with Pawlenty is that he doesn't bring a constituency with him as VP. Bachmann brings the Tea Party and evangelicals. Rubio appeals to the Hispanic vote. Christie fires up the base.
John Dickerson: I think you're right. Who is he speaking for? What is his one-line explanation for existing? Bachmann is not likely to win but lots of people want someone with her talent for one-liners, her pleasing sense of conviction, in the race. She is the guest you want at the GOP party banquet. Pawlenty so far is not the guy you keep on the list when you have to make do with a smaller room. There is nothing vital about him yet. But that can change.
Scott Wike: Pawlenty would make a better RNC head after the election. He is well spoken without being outlandish (Steele) and he has a real name that people won't laugh at (Preibus).
Paul Hefferon: The entire Republican smorgasbord is a distraction from anything based in reality.
Dave Weigel: That's what you see. To me, it's a respite from talking about a skinny dude's penis.
John Dickerson: GOP strategist Mike Murphy on why Pawlenty's problem in the debate is more than just with voters. I link to this because it's the same point I make and I like to validate myself in public. I may even like this comment after I post it.
Eric Anderson: Is it really possible for any candidate to consider for VP someone other than a Hispanic, young, fresh, Tea Party-favorite senator from a swing state with 27 electoral votes?
John Dickerson: I don't know. We are so many miles away from the VP selection I have a hard time sorting out all the variables. We'll have to see how things shake out.
Dave Weigel: I sure wouldn't! Be ready for 10 or 11 million stories about Rubio and the veeplist next year. He's kept his head down and only spoken to popular issues and foreign policy (he's giving his FIRST Senate speech today!) so he knows what he could be teeing up.
Scott Wike: This may be my ignorance of the issue, but how would the fact Rubio is Cuban interact with other Hispanic constituencies? They are much less monolithic than African-Americans are.
Dave Weigel: This is a great point, but Rubio would only need to get the 2012 nominee back near to Bush 2004 levels of Hispanic support to win back Colorado, for example.
Lauren Houckwares: Why does the media try to ignore Ron Paul so much? Most articles barely mention him, yet the comments from voters show he actually has pretty substantial support. Not to mention HE won that debate last night, not Romney.
Dave Weigel: A lot of political coverage is horse race. I know: BREAKING NEWS. But one function of that is that candidates with locked-in support who don't seem poised to take anyone else's voters don't get covered as much. Paul is pretty obviously the most intellectually influential candidate in the race, but most coverage isn't about that stuff.
MisterJay Em: I keep hearing that even evangelical voters are in a "transactional mood" and would be willing to forego the social issues to back a candidate, like Mitt Romney, who purports to be strong on the economy. But this weekend, a couple of evangelical family members reiterated that they would NEVER vote for "a member of a cult" (LDS/Mormons) for president. Maybe the evangelicals in my family are particularly ... uhh ... "devout," but I strongly suspect that Mr. Romney will have a tougher time winning over evangelical Christians than is currently appreciated.
John Dickerson: There are always going to be evangelical voters who have an issue with Romney's faith but I think that group is pretty small when you think about the evangelicals who hold that opinion and are actually going to vote. He outpolls Palin among evangelicals in the Gallup poll putting him above all other candidates. He got 20 percent of the evangelical vote in the IA caucuses in 2008 against Huckabee. That was the second highest percentage.
Andrew Holt Williams: First off, thanks for doing this! Good easy way to participate in a discussion. Let's talk House elections in 2012. We know what's going to happen with the Illinois map and likely the NC map. Are there any other places where you think, in this election cycle, the Dems and Reps are in good enough political standing to make significant gains? I've heard Florida mentioned as a hotbed for that (of course).
Dave Weigel: Andrew – Democrats stand to gain a little in California, where they even romped in 2010 despite the awful economy. Republicans will keep gains in Ohio and Michigan and Pennsylvania, where they can nuke Democratic seats. Texas and Florida will be interesting, because they're both gaining big but are already gerrymandered as much as they possibly could be to elect a maximum number of Republicans.
Andrew Holt Williams: Also, how do you think possible cuts in defense spending might manifest themselves in this election?
John Dickerson: Great question. I am not sure how defense cuts will play out. Haley Barbour made the case when he was flirting with running that defense needed to be cut and he got a pretty good reception up here in NH. It will be a great debate to watch because there are lots of GOP pundits who are against the idea. The question is, what do the regular folk think. I think there's some data about this in the recent Globe poll of NH voters but the globe site is a mess to navigate so I can't find it.
Andrew Holt Williams: The context I think of defense cuts within is probably a bit different, being from a part of the south that was heavily dependent on military bases. What I wonder is whether or not one candidate would be so bold as to stick their neck out on it knowing the importance of NC, VA, and FL to this election, three states with large base presences. This makes me inclined to think that the only candidate who would stand out on this would be a shocker winner for the GOP who knows they'll lose à la Goldwater.
Scott Wike: But Goldwater has been lionized almost to the level of Reagan, so if a politician is playing the long game, they might be willing to invoke that legacy and take those risks. It is all a matter of framing.
Rodney Conley: Is this debate valuable in reaching voters or is it really about spinning the media narrative this early in the campaign?
John Dickerson: There are two audiences for the debate, [one being] voters who get impressions and hear stories about the debate. We're at the early stage, it's all soft impressions and distant from the final decision voters make—particularly up here in NH where they decide late. But the audience of insiders—press, party folk and donors—does matter a little more. That inside game helps give a candidate money but also helps turn people out at rallies. Michele Bachmann will have even more people at her rallies than she did before the debate (she was already popular enough) and that keeps a candidate going—it's not *just* about the money
Dave Weigel: Rodney asks: "Is this debate valuable in reaching voters or is it really about spinning the media narrative this early in the campaign?" The answer is yes.
Nate Kennedy: It's been an hour so I'll re-ask: Have the GOP candidates given Pres. Obama political cover to speed up the withdrawal from Afghanistan without looking defeated?
Dave Weigel: I think so. That's a good point. He'd already been getting cover from House Republicans who were balking at the commitment. But the issue is how Afghanistan looks in October 2012, not how it looks this year.
John Dickerson: Nate Kennedy thanks for re-asking. Probably some cover though public opinion gives him the most cover. That and shooting Bin Laden in the face.
John Dickerson is Slate's chief political correspondent and author of On Her Trail. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read his series on the presidency and his series on risk. Follow him on Twitter.
David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. You can reach him at email@example.com, or tweet at him @daveweigel.
Pawlenty and Bachmann by Emmanuel Dunand/AFP/Getty Images.